Somali leader says Al Shabaab's WFP ban worsens hunger

11:20, March 05, 2010      

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Somali President Sheikh Sharif sheikh Ahmed on Thursday said the banning of the operations of the UN's food agency in Somalia by the insurgent group of Al Shabaab further deteriorates the humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

The Islamist rebel movement which is fighting Somali government forces late last month ordered the World Food Program (WFP) to terminate its operations in Somalia accusing the agency of being "anti-Islamic".

"The hunger in many parts of the country is further made worse by the refusal of anti-government groups for aid to reach those in need," the president told reporters in a press conference at his residence in Mogadishu.

The Somali leader also said the differences between WFP and the U.S. over aid deliveries to Somalia would also obstruct humanitarian operation in war wrecked nation.

The U.S. says aid for the displaced Somalis could go into the hands of Islamist insurgent forces controlling much of south and center of Somalia while WFP accused the U.S. of "politicizing aid".

Speaking about the ships and their crews still held hostage by Somali pirates, the Somali head of sate said the vessels and crews should be released "immediately and unconditionally", saying the piracy was "un-Islamic, immoral and criminal".

President Ahmed reminded the international community that foreign naval forces patrolling the pirate-infested Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden was not enough to stop the menace, saying the rebuilding of the Somali national institutions were necessary for better fighting piracy on land.

The Somali President reiterated his call for rebels opposed to his government, which now controls only parts of Mogadishu under the protection of African Union peacekeepers, to dialogue with the government.

Islamist insurgent groups, which now control almost the entire south and central Somalia except for a small part of the restive capital, have been mounting deadly attacks against forces of the transitional government and the African Union Mission in Somalia , causing heavy casualty in troops and civilians.

In February, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that nearly 20,000 people were driven from their homes in Mogadishu by renewed fighting between government forces and opposition groups. Somalia has been plagued by civil strife since the overthrow of military strongman Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Source: Xinhua
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